June 23, 2010

Letting go of control: Christi's story of Autumn's surprisingly Zen Birth

I went into labor at some point during my work day on Tuesday, Aug. 25, but didn't really admit to myself that I was having contractions until around 9pm, mainly because I was almost two weeks early with my first baby (and "they" all tell you that first babies are never early). My husband and I were watching TV and I finally noticed that the discomfort I had been having all day was coming at regular intervals. It wasn't until nearly 10pm that I said anything to my husband, and then it took us two hours of timing and book-reading to decide that it was "the real thing".

My plan was to have as natural, un-medicated, and non-interventionist a birth as possible. I wanted the freedom to walk and move around. But I went into labor knowing that birth is a crazy, messy thing and that you can never really plan for it. So I tried to be open-minded. I did have an OB since I had gone through fertility treatments and had wanted to stay within the same practice. However, I was lucky enough to have an OB practice that was supportive of natural births and did have a midwife on staff. And I selected a hospital that had labor tubs, labor balls and a low C-section rate.

My OB had told me that if I wanted to go natural, then I should stay at home as long as possible. From 10pm to 3am I wandered around my house, sometimes stopping to take a 3 minute nap, to eat a snack or to take a shower. We called the OB-on-call around 3am when my contractions were 5 minutes apart and left me breathless, and we got to the hospital by 3:30am. I was only 3cm.

The nurses and OB on call said I'd be happier at home if I didn't progress in a few hours. I didn't want to go home - I wanted to have my baby then! So I started walking, and walking fast. I think I logged a few miles (and lapped more than one nurse!) by 6am when my water broke. This got me a ticket to move to a labor room and the labor tub (thankfully my OB had no rules about being in the labor tub after my water broke).

One thing I was petrified about before going into labor was being stuck in a bed, attached to an IV. When it came time to get the IV I asked for a hep-lock rather than the full IV. I was prepared to ask this and had made sure that I stayed hydrated prior to going to the hospital. The staff agreed to the lock; it was the best pre-labor decision I had made.

I labored in and out of the tub from around 6am to 3pm, sometimes walking and sometimes on a labor ball. I had an amazing nurse who acted much like a doula and kept me focused on breathing, visualization and movement (and cherry popsicles!) We listened to a mix of music that I had made and I focused on my Happy Place (in a hammock on a beach in Hawaii).

At 3pm the OB wanted to check my cervix and got me out of the tub. I was only 4cm (ugh) and my contractions completely stopped. I was exhausted. I had been up since 6am Tuesday and it was now 3pm on Wednesday and my body just wasn't coping well. The OB on call and my nurse decided to let me nap for awhile. Then, around 3:30pm, it was strongly suggested that I have pitocin.

Now, I knew pitocin was something I didn't want. But at this point in labor (18+ hours) and being awake (33 hours), I was beat. Something needed to change and the only thing being suggested was pitocin, so I agreed. However, I asked for the lowest dose possible and insisted on still being able to walk around. I got hooked up to the IV and began to walk around the L&D ward with my husband and my nurse.

I only made it a quarter of the way down the hall before I started throwing up. I never throw up. The contractions were so strong and so long that I was doubled-over and gasping for breath. And they never let up - it felt like it was one continuous contraction from 3:30pm to 5pm. I ended up back in my room and in the labor bed. As much as I thought I didn't want to be in bed, it was really the only place I could find any comfort.

A little after 5pm I turned to my husband and asked, "would anyone think less of me if I got something for the pain?" He, of course, knew this meant the pain was bad. We had already agreed that if I needed anything that we would ask for a half dose of an IV pain med. My nurse, bless her, did try to talk me out of it by telling me that she'd have to check my cervix in order to give me anything. I insisted. The pitocin really had me in tremendous pain.

I was nearly 9cm! I had gone from 4cm to over 8 1/2cm in just an hour and a half. No wonder I was in so much pain! I got a half dose of Nubain at 5:30pm and immediately felt the need to push. Nobody believed me at first because they really thought it would take longer for me to get to 10cm. But the baby was coming.

My nurse called for the OB and helped me get into position. I gathered up every last bit of energy I had and pushed like my life depended on it. Five pushes, thirteen minutes (and some lateral tearing) later my daughter was here. Autumn Juliet was born on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 at 6:04pm after (at least) 21 hours of labor, coming in at 6lb, 15oz and 19 inches. She had a full head of hair and big, bright eyes that took in everything. As tired as I was, after being awake for 36 hours, I was suddenly full of energy and love.

My daughter's birth wasn't exactly as I envisioned it, but in the end it didn't matter. I always felt supported and cared for by everyone around me and I ended up with a beautiful, wonderful baby.

We, as pregnant women, get really wrapped up in what we want from the birth experience and we sometimes forget that there is another person in the equation: our baby. It's good to know what you want from your birth experience and to be prepared with the language, people, and tools that will guide you toward that. But then let go of some of that control, allow for some flexibility, and let your baby have a say in how the experience unfolds.

Ed note: Thanks, Christi, for sharing Autumn's Birth Story! We encourage everyone to inform themselves of all their options, and to choose doctors or midwives who support their decisions. Go Christi!

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